The press treats this as if it were nothing more than an inter-party squabble over taxes or immigration policy, not portions of the party tacitly supporting the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II.
February 26, 2022

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American politicians cheerleading a dictator as he sends tanks into a neighboring country and bombs a sovereign nation ought to be a huge news story. The fact that portions of a major U.S. political party, and its aligned media outlets, sanction Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine represents a stunning turning point for the Republican Party and how this country traditionally deals with foreign crises.

Assigning its loyalty and admiration to the Kremlin instead of the West Wing, key parts of the GOP, led by Trump who called Putin’s move “genius,” is embracing a truly radical worldview. But that’s not how the treasonous behavior is being portrayed by the press, which for days has matter-of-factly described the GOP as being “divided” over the prospect of a tyrannical Russian leader — his adversaries regularly end up dead — launching an invasion.

Ho-hum language abounds. There’s been a “split,” the New York Times reports, suggesting that Republicans who turn a blind eye to Putin’s invasion are merely “America First” “isolationists.” The party is facing “foreign policy factionalism,” Politico insisted. It’s sending “mixed messages,” NBC News announced, which went on to describe the GOP’s pro-Putin wing as “a newer brand of America Firsters,” “Republican doves,” and “the libertarian right” which has an “anti-interventionist strain.” None of that accurately describes this unprecedented trend in American politics of endorsing murderous autocrats.

More pedestrian presentation from NBC:

The fissures point to a growing divide in the Republican Party, between traditional foreign policy hawks who have advocated for a more confrontational U.S. posture to the Russian strongman and a Trump-aligned “MAGA” faction that has expressed some sympathy for Putin's tactics or described them as effective.

The Washington Post on Wednesday suggested it was a “novel phenomenon” that a portion of a U.S. political party was siding with the Kremlin over the White House. Novel? The Post article didn’t quote one Democrat or one expert on the rise of authoritarianism to put the GOP’s shocking behavior in context.

The Beltway press treats this as if it were nothing more than an inter-party squabble over taxes or immigration policy, not portions of the party tacitly supporting the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II, a possibly brutal blitzkrieg that could leave thousands of civilians dead. And spearheaded, ironically, by the former Soviet Union, which for decades served as the epicenter of right wing suspicion and hostility; the proverbial Evil Empire.

Today’s kind words for Putin would be like in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, if the Democratic Party had been “divided” over whether the deadly incursion was a good thing or a bad thing, and the D.C. press shrugging and treating it as normal political posturing. In truth, if a single elected Democratic official had even breathed a sentence of support for Hussein back then it would have been a huge story and created a maelstrom of media trouble for the party. Yet Republicans singing Putin’s praise in 2022 is treated as no big deal.

It’s the latest example of the media constantly normalizing reckless conservative behavior. “Trump’s own giddy rush to side with a foreign leader who is proving to be an enemy of the United States and the West is shocking even by Trump’s self-serving standards,” CNN’s Stephen Collison wrote. It’s “shocking” if you haven’t covered politics for the last six years.

The Putin appeasement coverage also lacks key context — what does this mean that one of America’s two major political parties supports a tyrant who invades his neighbor without cause? A U.S. party that politely regurgitates Kremlin talking points and embraces institutional appeasement for Putin, who in the previous decade stridently defended a Syrian regime that killed tens of thousands of its people in a civil war.

It’s not a minor faction either. Thanks to Trump’s worshipful embrace of Putin for years, 62 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents insist Putin is “a stronger leader” than Biden, according to a recent poll.

The GOP’s Putin bromance actually began under President Barack Obama, when Republicans and the right-wing media marveled at Putin’s political prowess. (Matt Drudge: “Putin is the leader of the free world.”) Why the sudden Republican attraction? Putin (a “macho man”) was defying the U.S. with regards to Syria and when Russia invaded Crimea.

Today it’s not just about oppositional politics — it’s not the GOP conveniently and temporarily embracing Putin because he’s squaring off against another Democratic president. Instead, it’s genuine admiration of an undemocratic strongman imposing his will, which is exactly why Republicans slavishly supported Trump for four years. This is another glimpse into the growing, and unapologetic, undemocratic movement within the GOP — and the press portrays it as normal.

That’s why Trump’s former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions, told Fox News that Putin is “a very talented statesman” with “lots of gifts.” “He knows how to use power. We should respect that.” It’s why Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, Eric Greitens, warned about “bloodthirsty Washington elites" and their "warmongering” against Russia.

And it’s why Tucker Carlson tells his millions of Fox News viewers each night that Biden is the one who needlessly provoked Russia, and that Ukraine is not a country worth saving.

Stop whitewashing the madness.

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